All Mideast Eyes On Vote Results


Iraq's elections drew intense interest across the Muslim Middle East, from rulers nervous about democracy in their midst to news media generally supportive of the Iraqi voters' courage, reports CBS News Correspondent Sheila MacVicar in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

The headline in one Saudi daily reads: "Iraqis Challenge Bombs and Vote." The focus is on participation, not violence.

"We're hoping that this election, when it prevails, will really make Iraq more stable," says journalist Taalat Wafa, who hopes the election will also decrease the bloodshed.

At Al-Ekbariah TV, a Saudi satellite channel, as throughout much of the Arab world, what happens in Iraq is a closely watched experiment.

Even Al-Manar TV, owned by Hezbollah, named by the State Department as a terrorist organization, reported favorably on the vote.

What some don't like is what they see as too much American involvement.But for others who have had few opportunities to cast a real ballot, Sunday's election offers new possibilities.

"I hope it will be a beginning for a new Iraq and democracy in all the Middle East," says one man.

"It is very good," says a woman.

President George Bush argues Iraq's elections set an example for other, non-democratic countries in the region, like Saudi Arabia, which is only now making preparations for the first, very limited elections in more than 40 years.

Supporters of democratic reform in Saudi Arabia worry that if Iraq fails, their government will use that failure as an excuse.

"Reform by itself has never been a bad experience," says Dr. Khalid al-Dakahil of King Saud University. "It's the way to go about reform that is the most important thing.

"This could be used by the government in this region to say, 'Well, we told you so. We have to go slow."

"None of the local dictators are eager to see a successful expression of democratic will in Iraq because it will pose a challenge to them," says Richard Perle, the former chairman of the Defense Policy Board. "They know it."

Everyone is watching. What the people and their rulers see happen in neighboring Iraq, good or bad, success or failure, will play a very big role in what happens next door.